The second part of the fourth gala performance at Cante de las Minas was the farewell dance of Blanca del Rey, her last ever public performance after a lifetime dedicated to the art of flamenco dance.
She started to dance at the age of 6, and at 14 made her debut with the prestigious Madrilenean Corral de la Morería, tablao flamenco, where she received great acclaim for her dancing, although at 19 she married Manuel del Rey and retired temporarily to bring up two sons, both of whom were part of the support for this last performance, along with her 5 brothers.
Returning to work she continued with the Corral de la Morería, before creating her own company, el Ballet Flamenco Blanca del Rey and in 1995 collaborated with Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar in a UNESCO sponsored spectacular, "Del Sitar a la Guitarra, " fusing the sitar and Spanish Flamenco, which was premiered in Brussels in the Cirque Royal.
She has worked on projects across all 5 continents, with a variety of international stars and companies, receiving numerous awards and honours for her work, including the Premio Nacional de Flamenco.
She began her performance wearing a red silk dress which weighed more than 20 kilos due to the length of it´s train, performing alegrías, up-beat, snappy pieces which require great technical dexterity to manipulate the heavy train to such a degree of elegance.
This style of dancing is very much what´s known as the Sevillanan style, so beloved of the flamenco tablao and café cantantes which proliferated in the early years of the last century, a style of dance which is less enthusiastically performed in these days of fusion and experimentation, relying on a strict formula for interpretation, and viewed by many younger dancers as being a little old-fashioned, although masterfully performed by Blanca del Rey in her farewell set.
Following on from this, she performed the "Soleá del Mantón" the shawl dance for which she is so famous, known universally as the Queen of the shawl dance.
It´s a remarkably difficult dance to pull off gracefully, requiring a great degree of technical dexterity to manipulate the shawl with effortless elegance, but it´s something for which she´s become justifiably famous.
For this performance she chose a 120 year old gold and black shawl, weighing 6 kilos, one of a collection of 40 which she possesses, a magnificent and majestic piece which echoed perfectly the elegance and poise of a dancer in her farewell dance, with a lifetime of achievement and acclaim.
At the end of the dance, as carnations rained onto the stage, she stroked the shawl, asking the crowd to applaud it, explaining that although she never brought the shawl back onto stage at the end of a performance, that this one merited it.
It was a highly charged farewell, emotional and tearful, the dancer presented with a bouquet by the Mayor of La Unión, Francisco Bernabé, commenting, "Ha sido una noche maravillosa. Un revuelo de sentimientos encontrados para decir adiós a algo que ha sido toda mi vida, el flamenco. En un lugar tan emblemático como es el Cante de las Minas"
Saying goodbye to flamenco, which had been her life, and an honour for La Unión for Cante de las Minas to have been the setting chosen for her last public performance, although in her opinion, she was the one honoured to be the one performing in such a prestigious festival and such an iconic setting in the Flamenco world.
Following the gala, both herself and Tomatito who had opened the evening, unveiled their miners lamps and names engraved in the Avenida Flamenca outside the emblematic old market place known as the "Catedral del Cante", the cathedral of song, a new "hall of fame" cut into the paving stones which honours the great artists performing at the 51st Festival of Cante de las Minas.
After retiring from public performance, she will now resume her work as Artistic Director of the Corral de la Morería, the prestigious tablao flamenco in which she began her own career, a lifetime of achievement ago.
An emotional farewell, which left most of those close surrounding the stage to bid her farewell in tears, along with the dancer herself.
A privilege to have been there at all.
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